Friday, October 19, 2018

Vintage Colored Pencils: Eberhard Faber Aquarello

Vintage Eberhard Faber Aquarello

Early in my vintage colored pencils series, I reviewed the Eberhard Faber Mongol (which I also mentioned months later when I experienced my most exciting colored pencil geek moment ever!). At the time, it was the only water-soluble colored pencil in my fledgling vintage collection. Of course, as a subset of the colored pencil universe, water-soluble pencils are of particular interest to me, since they are my current coloring medium of choice. As is true of contemporary materials, historic pencil manufacturers produced many more traditional colored pencils (wax- or oil-based) than watercolor versions, and the latter are more difficult to find.

Since the Mongols, I’ve acquired a few other vintage watercolor pencils, including the Faber-Castell Goldfaber and Venus. Most recently, I found a set from Eberhard Faber that was new to me: Aquarello “water color” pencils, which “inaugurate a new era in the field of art.”

Although the used set I got on eBay was not complete, the cool original box was in better condition than most I’ve purchased from the era.
The hinged trays can be made to stand up on the desktop.

I get a kick out of the marketing copy: “The colors can be ‘SUPERIMPOSED.’” I see that the same “Paint with pencils” tagline that appears on Mongol packaging is being used here, too.

I love the snap tab closure; a similar tab was used in some production years of the Mongol, too. (My Mongol box doesn’t have one, but I saw it on the one that appeared in The Post.) These similarities in packaging make me wonder if one superseded the other in Eberhard Faber’s collection or if they existed side by side.

A snap tab keeps the compact box closed.

The Aquarello has a plain, unfinished end. I miss the lovely metal end cap and equally beautiful typeface on the Mongol. I wish I knew the years they were produced relative to each other.

Unfortunately, this is a brief and mostly pictorial review, as these washable “colored leads” are just as wimpy as those of the Mongol. A bit softer and containing slightly more pigment than the Mongol when dry, the Aquarello takes some scrubbing to activate. Perhaps the Mongol was intended as a harder pencil for details, while the Aquarello is slightly softer for coloring.

The Mongol and Aquarello have similarly pale washes.

As a colored pencil historian, I appreciate seeing these early American predecessors to my favorite art medium. And using them makes me doubly grateful for contemporary water-soluble colored pencils, which are so much softer, contain more pigment and dissolve with greater vibrancy. Honestly, even very inexpensive contemporary watercolor pencils seem better than vintage ones. Of course, I don’t buy vintage pencils with the hope that I’ll find one of better quality than what I can buy easily off the shelf today; I collect them for their historical interest. As I concluded when I compared vintage and contemporary Goldfaber sets, it’s good to know that technology and manufacturing processes have improved over time, making it possible to produce better quality pencils, even at the low end of the price range.

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Back for More

10/17/18 Seattle Japanese Garden
When Greg saw my sketches and photos of the Japanese Garden the other day, he decided he needed to see it for himself. So the next day while he photographed all the color, I tagged along for more sketches. I can’t seem to get enough of our fall!

This time I focused on a pair of brilliant yellow trees (I wish I knew what they were. . . I see them often enough in Seattle) behind the pond. Then I tried to capture the twisty motion of the hungry koi gathering near the pond’s surface, hoping for a snack, whenever someone crossed the bridge.

10/17/18 koi

Wednesday, October 17, 2018

A Colorful Afternoon at Japanese Garden

10/16/18 Heron at Japanese Garden (with a koi swimming by)

Remember all those days in August when smoke from wildfires ruined what should have been the best of our summer? Those lost days are being returned to us now with yet another week of unbelievably beautiful weather. If I’d known then that I’d get those sketching days back in the fall, I never would have complained, because truthfully, I prefer these temperatures in the 60s (even when I have to put on my jacket in the shade).

With the weather forecast predicting yesterday’s sunshine, we took a chance last week and scheduled a sketch outing, even though it was still seven days away, when conditions could easily change. I kept my eye on the forecast, and our optimism was rewarded. I think it may have been USk Seattle’s most colorful outing ever!

As I entered the garden, I overheard people chatting about a gray heron in the pond, and I assumed it would be gone by the time I got there. To my surprise, he was still taking his time preening atop a rock, so I couldn’t resist grabbing him first while I could. Amazingly, he stayed the whole time I sketched.

After that I walked around the whole garden to take in all the color lighted by the low afternoon sun. A weeping willow growing nearly horizontally over the pond was challenging but, again, irresistible.

Expecting to have only my usual 15 or 20 minutes left before the throwdown, I was surprised to see that I still had a half-hour. Plenty of time for a third sketch! A stone lantern by the path was filled with shadows ideal for hatching. I’d already done an InkTober sketch for the day, but what the heck – I could get a head start on tomorrow.

For a short-notice weekday, we had a great turnout!

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

#InkTober Check-in: The Struggle is Real

10/11/18 (from photo of my own hand)

Week 2 of InkTober was less revealing and insightful than week 1. In fact, it was a bit of a struggle because the weather was lovely, and when I’m sketching outdoors, I want to use color. If I didn’t have time for both a full-color sketch and a ballpoint sketch, then I felt “obligated” to use the time for my InkTober sketch. Sometimes I was hasty, just to “get it over with.” It’s a common dilemma, I think, for participants of any challenge like this.

And yet, despite that tension, I admit I’m still learning from my insistence on hatching with ballpoint. Some part of me appreciates the self-discipline of simply sticking with something every day, even if I’m not really in the mood. Ballpoint is still so new to me that it’s a challenge from start to finish; I feel no sense of comfort or familiarity as I do with all my favorite sketching media. My process-oriented self enjoys observing this discomfort. Victorian work ethic or masochism? Call it what you will.

You already saw my kaput Krups coffeemaker; here are the rest of last week’s InkTober sketches. I’m putting all of them into this Flickr album.

How’s your InkTober going?

10/9/18 Wedgwood neighborhood

10/10/18 Denny Hall, UW campus
10/12/18 koi at Swansons Nursery

10/14/18 our neighbors' pumpkins

Monday, October 15, 2018

A Few Favorites at the Zoo

10/13/18 Humboldt penguins and their keeper

Although we’re Woodland Park Zoo members, it had been ages since we last visited (I was in the zoo’s Rose Garden a few weeks ago with Urban Sketchers, but I didn’t see any animals). On yet another fabulous fall afternoon, we went to see a few of our favorites.

First up were the Humboldt penguins, where their keeper was giving a presentation and feeding them treats. (I remembered the keeper from a couple of years ago, when I sketched him showing off the new Chilean flamingo chicks.)

Next were my personal favorite, the meerkats. I’ve sketched (or attempted to sketch) them every time I’ve visited the zoo, but they move so fast that they are very challenging. I love their curious poses and quizzical expressions as they rise up on their haunches to look around.

A few exhibits over from the meerkats was a two-toed sloth. Hanging upside-down from a rope as he ate lettuce, he looked like a carpet (and moved about as quickly as one). I couldn’t help but recall the scene in Zootopia, in which all the Department of Motor Vehicle employees were sloths!

10/13/18 meerkats and sloth
By late-afternoon, I was getting cold, and we had both optimistically underdressed (seeing sunshine and a blue sky will do that). Before dashing home, though, we had to make a quick stop at the new Assam Rhino Reserve, where a couple of young one-horned rhinos, Taj and Glenn (named for astronaut John Glenn, I learned), were feeding. Some obstructions kept me from seeing most of their leathery bodies, but I got a good look at the head of one of them munching hay. I hope to catch them again sometime when they’re out in their pool so I can sketch more of their substantial girth.

10/13/18 young rhino

Sunday, October 14, 2018

RIP, Krups

10/13/18 Farewell, reliable friend!

My two-cup Krups has been making my coffee every morning since the ‘80s when I first moved out as an adult. Suddenly on Friday, it died. This sketch for InkTober is a memorial and farewell to a reliable hard worker. (More InkTober sketches from last week are coming up, but this one deserved its own post.)

Now I have to decide what to replace it with. I don’t want one that makes 10 cups (I already have one of those in the basement for when we have the rare house guest), makes ridiculously wasteful single K-cups, plays music, must be programmed or is smarter than I am. All I want is one good cup of coffee each for Greg and me.

Facebook friends have suggested various solutions, including a French press, which sounds the least wasteful because it uses no disposable filters. For now I have my old single-cup plastic cone to get us through.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Blue and Orange at Swansons

10/12/18 Swansons' planter display

USk Seattle likes to make at least two regular visits to Swansons Nursery each year – autumn and Christmas. Yesterday was our first visit of the year, and the pumpkins and other fall displays were out in full force. Looking around at all that orange, I then turned around and saw multiple displays of large ceramic planters organized by color. I knew the blue ones would be especially gorgeous if I could also get some pumpkins into the same composition. I walked around for a long time trying to get the blue and orange together while also taking into consideration the direction of the sun, but I just couldn’t make it work.

I finally settled for doing two separate sketches – first, the blue planters; then an old tractor filled with pumpkins (along with Arlene sketching them).

It was a lovely autumn morning for sketching outdoors – mostly sunny and bright (but chilly – I was very happy that I had grabbed my down jacket on the way out the door, especially for the top-down drive home).

10/12/18 Swansons Nursery
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